Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 238
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 238
 
to which the boy is born. He has to depend on him in much, in the new order of things. The old man is “slo,” he is “Dutch.” He may be an Irishman with some advantages; he is still a “foreigner.” He loses his grip on the boy.
  Ethical standards of which he has no conception clash. Watch the meeting of two currents in river or bay, and see the line of drift that tells of the struggle. So in the city’s life strive the currents of the old and the new, and in the churning the boy goes adrift. The last hold upon him is gone. That is why the gang appears in the second generation, the first born upon the soil,—a fighting gang if the Irishman is there with his ready fist, a thievish gang if it is the East Side Jew,—and disappears in the third. The second boy’s father is not “slow.” He has had experience. He was clubbed into decency in his own day, and the night stick wore off the glamour of the thing. His grip on the boy is good, and it holds.
  It depends now upon chance what is to become of the lad. But the slum has stacked the cards against him. There arises in the lawless crowd a leader, who rules with his stronger fists or his readier wit. Around him the gang crystallizes, and what he is it becomes. He may be a thief, like David Meyer, a report of whose doings I have before me. He was just a bully, and, being the

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